Steven Gerrard admits he is still irked by late capitulation in Lisbon as he prepares for Benfica rematch at Ibrox
He has had almost three weeks to try and clear it from his mind but Steven Gerrard still finds it hard to overcome his disappointment at the manner in which his team let a 3-1 lead against Benfica slip away in the Stadium of Light.
The 3-3 draw against the Portuguese giants in Lisbon was a good result for Rangers by any other metric, leaving them at the top of Group D at the halfway stage and in prime position to progress to the last 32 of the competition.
But ahead of Thursday night’s return fixture against Benfica at Ibrox, Gerrard remains irritated that Rangers could not see out a victory over opponents who had been reduced to 10 men after just 19 minutes but who scored twice in the closing stages to salvage a point.
“There's still a bit of frustration about what happened late in the game over in Lisbon,” said Gerrard. “The position we got ourselves into and how we finished the game – you're never going to be able to move on from that as quickly as you want to.
“It planted a seed in our heads but that's a good thing for the staff and players to carry into the next game at Ibrox. We want Thursday night to be pivotal. We want to give everything to that game and give our supporters a night to be proud of.
“That has to be the dream and the target. But we're under no illusions – this will be the toughest game in the group. We thought that for the away game but the way it panned out, it wasn't because we had an extra man advantage.
“We have big respect for Benfica, they're littered with top class players and have spent an awful lot of money – £80 million in the summer. So again we'll go in as underdogs but we know what these players are about now. We know what they're capable of and what level of performance we'll need to get a positive result.”
Before they switch their focus to Benfica, Gerrard and his squad will bid to maintain their impressive Premiership form when they face Aberdeen at Ibrox on Sunday. The Dons will not be able to include Ross McCrorie in their line-up after Rangers deliberately structured the midfielder’s move to Pittodrie in the summer as an initial one-year loan before the 22-year-old signs a permanent three-year contract at Pittodrie next year.
“It doesn't make sense to do deals that support rivals and opposition players,” said Gerrard. “So, of course, we wanted the deal that suits us. It was also a deal between the directors of Aberdeen and Rangers, in terms of the structure and when money gets paid. But from me at the time, I said if it's happening, it'll happen on my terms and Rangers' terms.
"We didn’t want him to leave the building, the decision was made by Ross. He wanted to go and play regular football. As a manager that’s a difficult position to be in because you want to respect the player’s ambition.
“I was open and welcome to Ross staying. He is a good player so it’s no surprise he has gone to Aberdeen and hit the ground running. But it was a decision we made reluctantly.”
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